US 4991548 A
A pneumatically powered valve actuator is disclosed including a valve actuator housing, a main piston reciprocable within the housing along an axis and a pair of auxiliary pistons fixed to and movable with the main piston. The main piston has a pair of oppositely facing primary working surfaces. A pair of air control valves reciprocable along said axis relative to both the housing and the main piston between open and closed positions control air flow from a pressurized source causing the main piston and the pair of auxiliary pistons to move. Each auxiliary piston forms, in conjunction with a surface of the corresponding air control valve, a variable volume annular chamber. The variable volume chamber function during the early portion of piston movement to apply a reclosing force to the air control valve and during a latter portion of the piston movement to vent air compressed by the piston during damping. This venting of the residual air is in an axial rather than a radial direction.
1. A pneumatically powered valve actuator comprising a valve actuator housing; a main piston reciprocable within the housing along an axis, the main piston having a pair of oppositely facing primary working surfaces; a pair of air control valves reciprocable along said axis relative to both the housing and the main piston between open and closed positions; a substantially constant high pressure air source located closely adjacent each of the air control valves; means for selectively opening one of said air control valves to supply pressurized air from the constant pressure air source to one of said primary working surfaces causing the main piston to move without significant depletion of the air pressure within the source.
2. The pneumatically powered valve actuator of claim 1 further comprising a pair of auxiliary pistons fixed to and movable with the main piston, each auxiliary piston forming, in conjunction with a surface of the corresponding air control valve, a variable volume annular chamber; and means responsive to the motion of one of the auxiliary pistons for urging the one air control valve toward its closed position.
3. A bistable electro-pneumatic transducer comprising a housing; a main piston reciprocable within the housing along an axis, the main piston having a pair of oppositely facing primary working surfaces; a pair of air control valves reciprocable along said axis relative to both the housing and the main piston between open and closed positions; a substantially constant pressure high pressure air source located closely adjacent each of the air control valves; means for selectively opening one of said air control valves to supply pressurized air from the constant pressure air source to one of said primary working surfaces causing the main piston to move without significant depletion of the air pressure within the source; a pair of auxiliary pistons fixed to and movable with the main piston, each auxiliary piston forming, in conjunction with a surface of the corresponding air control valve, a variable volume annular chamber; and means responsive to the motion of one of the auxiliary pistons for urging the one air control valve toward its closed position.
The present invention relates generally to a two position, straight line motion actuator and more particularly to a fast acting actuator which utilizes pneumatic energy against a piston to perform fast transit times between the two positions. The invention utilizes a pair of control valves to gate high pressure air to the piston and permanent magnets to hold the control valves in their closed positions until a coil is energized to neutralize the permanent magnet latching force and open one of the valves. Stored pneumatic gases accelerate the piston rapidly from one position to the other position. Movement of the piston from one position to the other traps some air adjacent the face of the working piston opposite the face to which accelerating air pressure is being applied creating an opposing force on the piston to slow the piston as it nears the end of its travel. An additional damping of piston motion and retrieval of portion of the kinetic energy of the piston is accomplished by an auxiliary piston which moves with the main or working piston and compresses air to help reclose the control valve.
This actuator finds particular utility in opening and closing the gas exchange, i.e., intake or exhaust, valves of an otherwise conventional internal combustion engine. Due to its fast acting trait, the valves may be moved between full open and full closed positions almost immediately rather than gradually as is characteristic of cam actuated valves.
The actuator mechanism may find numerous other applications such as in compressor valving and valving in other hydraulic or pneumatic devices, or as a fast acting control valve for fluidic actuators or mechanical actuators where fast controlled action is required such as moving items in a production line environment.
Internal combustion engine valves are almost universally of a poppet type which are spring loaded toward a valve-closed position and opened against that spring bias by a cam on a rotating cam shaft with the cam shaft being synchronized with the engine crankshaft to achieve opening and closing at fixed preferred times in the engine cycle. This fixed timing is a compromise between the timing best suited for high engine speed and the timing best suited to lower speeds or engine idling speed.
The prior art has recognized numerous advantages which might be achieved by replacing such cam actuated valve arrangements with other types of valve opening mechanism which could be controlled in their opening and closing as a function of engine speed as well as engine crankshaft angular position or other engine parameters.
For example, in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 226,418 entitled VEHICLE MANAGEMENT COMPUTER filed in the name of William E. Richeson on Jul. 29, 1988 there is disclosed a computer control system which receives a plurality of engine operation sensor inputs and in turn controls a plurality of engine operating parameters including ignition timing and the time in each cycle of the opening and closing of the intake and exhaust valves among others. U.S. Pat. No. 4,009,695 discloses hydraulically actuated valves in turn controlled by spool valves which are themselves controlled by a dashboard computer which monitors a number of engine operating parameters. This patent references many advantages which could be achieved by such independent valve control, but is not, due to its relatively slow acting hydraulic nature, capable of achieving these advantages. The patented arrangement attempts to control the valves on a real time basis so that the overall system is one with feedback and subject to the associated oscillatory behavior.
In copending application Ser. No. 021,195 now U.S. Pat. No. 4,794,890 entitled ELECTROMAGNETIC VALVE ACTUATOR, filed Mar. 3, 1987 in the name of William E. Richeson and assigned to the assignee of the present application, there is disclosed a valve actuator which has permanent magnet latching at the open and closed positions. Electromagnetic repulsion may be employed to cause the valve to move from one position to the other. Several damping and energy recovery schemes are also included.
In copending application Ser. No. 153,257, now U.S. Pat. No. 4,878,464, entitled PNEUMATIC ELECTRONIC VALVE ACTUATOR, filed Feb. 8, 1988 in the names of William E. Richeson and Frederick L. Erickson and assigned to the assignee of the present application there is disclosed a somewhat similar valve actuating device which employs a release type mechanism rather than a repulsion scheme as in the previously identified copending application. The disclosed device in this application is a jointly pneumatically and electromagnetically powered valve with high pressure air supply and control valving to use the air for both damping and as one motive force. The magnetic motive force is supplied from the magnetic latch opposite the one being released and this magnetic force attracts an armature of the device so long as the magnetic field of the first latch is in its reduced state. As the armature closes on the opposite latch, the magnetic attraction increases and overpowers that of the first latch regardless of whether it remains in the reduced state or not. This copending application also discloses different operating modes including delayed intake valve closure and a six stroke cycle mode of operation.
In copending application Ser. No. 153,155 filed Feb. 8, 1988 in the names of William E. Richeson and Frederick L. Erickson, assigned to the assignee of the present application and entitled PNEUMATICALLY POWERED VALVE ACTUATOR there is disclosed a valve actuating device generally similar in overall operation to the present invention. One feature of this application is that control valves and latching plates have been separated from the primary working piston to provide both lower latching forces and reduced mass resulting in faster operating speeds. This concept is incorporated in the present invention and it is one object of the present invention to further improve these two aspects of operation.
Copending applications Ser. Nos. 209,273, now U.S. Pat. No. 4,873,948, and, 209,279, now U.S. Pat. No. 4,852,528, entitled respectively PNEUMATIC ACTUATOR WITH SOLENOID OPERATED CONTROL VALVES and PNEUMATIC ACTUATOR WITH PERMANENT MAGNET CONTROL VALVE LATCHING, filed in the names of William E. Richeson and Frederick L. Erickson, assigned to the assignee of the present invention and both filed on Jun. 20, 1988 address, among other things, the use of air pressure at or below source pressure to aid in closing and maintaining closed the control valves along with improvements in operating efficiency over the above noted devices.
Other related applications all assigned to the assignee of the present invention and filed in the name of William E. Richeson on Feb. 8, 1988 are Ser. No. 07/153,262, now U.S. Pat. No. 4,883,025, entitled POTENTIAL-MAGNETIC ENERGY DRIVEN VALVE MECHANISM where energy is stored from one valve motion to power the next and where a portion of the motive force for the device comes from the magnetic attraction from a latch opposite the one being currently neutralized as in the above noted Ser. No. 153,257; and Ser. No. 07/153,154, now U.S. Pat. No. 4,831,973, entitled REPULSION ACTUATED POTENTIAL ENERGY DRIVEN VALVE MECHANISM wherein a spring (or pneumatic equivalent) functions both as a damping device and as an energy storage device ready to supply part of the accelerating force to aid the next transition from one position to the other.
In Applicants', application Ser. No. 294,728, now U.S. Pat. 4,875,441 names of Richeson and Erickson, the inventors herein, on even date herewith and entitled ENHANCED EFFICIENCY VALVE ACTUATOR, there is disclosed a pneumatically powered valve actuator which has a pair of air control valves with permanent magnet latching of those control valves in closed position. The magnetic latching force (and therefor, the size/cost) of the latching magnets is reduced by equalizing air pressure on the control valve which heretofor had to be overcome by the magnetic attraction. Damping requirements for the main reciprocating piston are reduced because there is a recapture and use of the kinetic energy of the main piston to reclose the control valve. The main piston shaft has O-ring sealed "bumpers" at each end to drive the air control valve closed should it fail to close otherwise.
In Applicants', application Ser. No. 294,730, now U.S. Pat. No. 4,872,425, filed in the names of Richeson and Erickson on even date herewith and entitled AIR POWERED VALVE ACTUATOR, the reciprocating piston of a pneumatically driven valve actuator has several air passing holes extending in its direction of reciprocation to equalize the air pressure at the opposite ends of the piston. The piston also has an undercut which, at the appropriate time, passes high pressure air to the back side of the air control valve thereby using air being vented from the main piston of the valve to aid in closing the control valve. The result is a higher air pressure closing the control valve than the air pressure used to open the control valve.
In Applicants', application Ser. No. 295,177, names of Richeson and Erickson on even date herewith and entitled FAST ACTING VALVE there is disclosed a valve actuating mechanism having a pair of auxiliary pistons which aid in reclosing air control valves while at the same time damping main piston motion near the end of the mechanism travel. Excess damping air or "blow down" is vented through an auxiliary chamber and then through a small radial slot to a collector manifold and thence to the outside of the actuator and returned to the inlet of an air pump to be recompressed and recirculated. Such a radial low pressure air outlet path is common to many of these copending applications, but absent from the present invention.
In Applicants', application Ser. No. 294,727, filed in the names of Richeson and Erickson on even date herewith and entitled PNEUMATIC ACTUATOR, an actuator has one-way pressure relief valves similar to the relief valves in the abovementioned Ser. No. 209,279 to vent captured air back to the high pressure source. The actuator also has "windows" or venting valve undercuts in the main piston shaft which are of reduced size as compared to the windows in other of the cases filed on even date herewith resulting in a higher compression ratio. The actuator of this application increases the area which is pressurized when the air control valve closes thereby still further reducing the magnetic force required.
In Applicants', application Ser. No. 294,729, filed in the name of William E. Richeson on even date herewith an entitled ELECTRO-PNEUMATIC ACTUATOR, an actuator which reduces the air demand on the high pressure air source by recovering as much as possible of the air which is compressed during damping. The main piston provides a portion of the magnetic circuit which holds the air control valves closed. When a control valve is opened, the control valve and the main piston both move and the reluctance of the magnetic circuit increases dramatically and the magnetic force on the control valve is correspondingly reduced.
All of the above noted cases filed on even date herewith have a main or working piston which drives the engine valve and which is, in turn powered by compressed air. The power or working piston which moves the engine valve between open and closed positions is separated from the latching components and certain control valving structures so that the mass to be moved is materially reduced allowing very rapid operation. Latching and release forces are also reduced. Those valving components which have been separated from the main piston need not travel the full length of the piston stroke, leading to some improvement in efficiency. Compressed air is supplied to the working piston by a pair of control valves with that compressed air driving the piston from one position to another as well as typically holding the piston in a given position until a control valve is again actuated. The control valves are held closed by permanent magnets and opened by an electrical pulse in a coil near the permanent magnet. All of the cases employ "windows" which are cupped out or undercut regions on the order of 0.1 inches in depth along a somewhat enlarged portion of the shaft of the main piston, for passing air from one region or chamber to another or to a low pressure air outlet. These cases may also employ a slot centrally located within the piston cylinder for supplying an intermediate latching air pressure as in the above noted Ser. No. 153,155 and a reed valve arrangement for returning air compressed during piston damping to the high pressure air source as in the above noted Ser. No. 209,279. For convenience of explanation, these cases refer to venting or "blow down" to atmosphere and while such venting could be into the ambient atmosphere, the language is intended to encompass venting to a substantially atmospheric pressure outlet with the air to be recirculated to a pump and repressurized in a closed system to avoid the introduction of dust and moisture which might otherwise be ingested with a fresh air inlet.
The entire disclosures of all of the above identified copending applications are specifically incorporated herein by reference.
Among the several objects of the present invention may be noted the provision of a bistable fluid powered actuating device characterized by fast transition times and improved efficiency; the provision of a valve actuator which minimizes the mass of the reciprocating components; the provision of a pneumatically driven actuating device having more rapidly reacting control valves; the provision of an electronically controlled pneumatically powered valve actuating device having auxiliary pistons which aid both damping and reclosure of control valves; the provision of an electronically controlled pneumatically powered valve actuating device having an axial low pressure air outlet; the provision of a pneumatically powered valve actuator having a substantially constant pressure high pressure air source; the provision of a valve actuating device having air supply control valves and air chambers which retain and compress air during the time the control valves are opening which compressed air acts to aid reclosing of the air control valves; and the provision of a valve actuating device of reduced axial length. These as well as other objects and advantageous features of the present invention will be in part apparent and in part pointed out hereinafter.
In general, a pneumatically powered valve actuator has the valve actuator cover or other exterior path as a simplified air return path for low pressure air and a variety of new air venting paths which simplify fabrication of the main valve body as well as allowing the use of much larger and, therefor, substantially constant pressure, high pressure air accumulators close to the working piston. The low pressure outlet from the actuator is in an axial rather than a radial direction resulting in a more compact and simple construction and, in particular, a reduction in overall actuator length.
Also in general and in one form of the invention, a bistable electro-pneumatic transducer has a housing with a main piston reciprocable therein along an axis. The main piston has a pair of oppositely facing primary working surfaces, a pair of air control valves reciprocable along the axis relative to both the housing and the main piston between open and closed positions, and a substantially constant pressure high pressure air source located closely adjacent each of the air control valves. A coil is energizable to selectively open one of the air control valves to supply pressurized air from the constant pressure air source to one of the piston primary working surfaces causing the main piston to move without significant depletion of the air pressure within the source. A pair of auxiliary pistons are fixed to and movable with the main piston with each auxiliary piston forming, in conjunction with a surface of the corresponding air control valve, a variable volume annular chamber which is responsive to the motion of the corresponding auxiliary piston to urge the one air control valve toward its closed position. The pressure within the variable volume annular chamber associated with the opened air control valve will typically be initially at atmospheric pressure and increase throughout a portion of time during which the main piston moves and then drops back to atmospheric pressure before the main piston stops.
FIG. 1 is a view in cross-section showing the pneumatically powered actuator of the present invention with the power piston latched in its leftmost position as it would normally be when the corresponding engine valve is closed;
FIGS. 2-7 are views in cross-section similar to FIG. 1, but illustrating component motion and function as the piston progresses rightwardly to its extreme rightward or valve open position; and
Corresponding reference characters indicate corresponding parts throughout the several views of the drawing.
The exemplifications set out herein illustrate a preferred embodiment of the invention in one form thereof and such exemplifications are not to be construed as limiting the scope of the disclosure or the scope of the invention in any manner.
The valve actuator is illustrated sequentially in FIGS. 1-7 to illustrate various component locations and functions in moving a poppet valve or other component (not shown) from a closed to an open position. Motion in the opposite direction will be clearly understood from the symmetry of the components. Generally speaking, a pneumatically powered valve actuator is shown having a valve actuator housing 19 and a piston 13 reciprocable within the housing along the axis of the shaft or stem 11. The piston 13 has a pair of oppositely facing primary working surfaces 38 and 40, a pressurized air source 39, a pair of air control valves 15 and 17 reciprocable along the axis relative to both the housing 19 and the piston 13 between open and closed positions. A magnetic neutralization coil 24 or 26 may be energized to neutralize the latching effect of a permanent magnet 25 or 27 for selectively opening one of the air control valves 15 or 17 to supply pressurized air from the air source to one of said primary working surfaces causing the piston to move.
The actuator includes a shaft or stem 11 which may form a part of or connect to an internal combustion engine poppet valve. The actuator also includes a reciprocable piston 13, and a pair of reciprocating or sliding control valve members 15 and 17 enclosed within the housing 19. The control valve members 15 and 17 are latched in a closed position by a combination of the attractive forces of magnets 25 and 27, and may be dislodged from their respective latched positions by energization of coils 24 and 26. The control valve members or shuttle valves 15 and 17 cooperate with both the piston 13 and the housing 19 to achieve various porting functions during operation. The housing 19 has a high pressure inlet port 39 similar to, but much larger than the inlet ports of many of the above identified copending applications. The actuator has a unique axial low pressure outlet path to be discussed in greater detail subsequently. The low pressure may be about atmospheric pressure while the high pressure is on the order of 90-100 psi. gauge pressure. An intermediate or latching air pressure source may, as in earlier applications, supply air at, for example, about 9-10 psi to the annular slot 43.
This actuator incorporates a fast acting control valve. FIGS. 1 shows an initial state with piston 13 in the extreme leftward position and with the air control valve 15 latched closed. In this state, the annular abutment end surface 77 is inserted into an annular slot in the housing 19 and seals against an o-ring 47. This seals the pressure in cavity 39 and prevents the application of any moving force to the main piston 13. In this position, the main piston 13 is being urged to the left (latched) by the pressure on working surface 40. FIG. 1 illustrates the actuator with the power piston 13 latched in the far leftmost position as it would be when the corresponding engine valve is closed. The subpiston annular chamber 91 is at atmospheric pressure when the main piston is at rest. The subpiston 29 or 31 slidingly engages the inside bore 33 or 35 of the air control valve 15. The subpiston chamber 91 is vented to the atmosphere through slot 63 at one extreme of the piston travel and through slot 75 at the other extreme of the piston travel. Intermediate the extremes, neither slot is effective to vent the subpiston chamber 91. Permanent magnet 25 holds air control valve 15 in a closed state.
Between FIGS. 1 and 2, the function of annular chamber 91 changes from that of a low pressure outlet to that of an increasing pressure chamber for eventually reclosing air control valve 15.
In FIG. 2, coil 24 has been energized neutralizing the holding force of permanent magnet 25 on armature 45 and the shuttle valve 15 has moved toward the left, for example, 0.035 in. while piston 13 has not yet moved toward the right while FIG. 3 shows the opening of the air valve 15 to about 0.07 in. and movement of the piston 13 about 0.140 in. to the right. In FIG. 2, the high pressure air had been supplied to the cavity 39 and to the face 38 of piston 13 driving that piston toward the right. That high pressure air supply by way of cavity 39 to piston face 38 is cut off in FIG. 3 by the edge of the window 59 of piston 13 passing the annular abutment 41 of the housing 19. Piston 13 continues to accelerate, however, due to the expansion energy of the high pressure air in cavity 81. In FIG. 2 coil 24 is energized and the field from permanent magnet 25 is decreased until the air control valve 15 is free to move. Air valve 15 is accelerated from the high pressure in chamber 39 acting on control valve faces 21 and 22. Atmospheric port 63 is now closed by control valve 15 and, in particularly, by motion of the subpiston 29 past the slot 63. Port 63 is now closed, no longer venting subpiston chamber 91 to the atmosphere. The subpiston chamber 91 acts as a complex air spring being compressed and this increasing pressure is applied to faces 90 and 92 of the air control valve 15. Note that the area of faces 90 and 92 is substantially the same as the area of faces 21 and 22. The motion of subpiston 29 and air valve 15 is towards each other, this makes up a nonlinear changing volume thus creating the complex air spring. The air valve 15 has traveled a little less than half of its total travel in FIG. 2. As tang 77 slides clear of the body 41 portion of the main housing 19, main piston 13 is accelerated by the high pressure from chamber 39 through window 59. Window 59 and the other windows to be discussed subsequently are a series of peripheral undercuts in an otherwise cylindrical portion of the main piston.
In FIG. 3 air valve 15 has traveled to nearly its full open position. Atmospheric air in subpiston chamber 91 continues to be compressed and a small amount of energy is being extracted from the main piston 13 by subpiston 29 due to the building pressure in subpiston chamber 91. Window 59 has cut off main piston 13 from the source pressure. The main piston 13 has now traveled thirty percent of its total travel and the high pressure in main piston cylinder 81 is being expanded.
In FIG. 4 air valve 15 is fully open and the atmospheric air in subpiston chamber 91 is being compressed to a higher value. More energy is being extracted from the main piston 13 by subpiston 29. The high pressure in main cylinder 81 is continuing to expand. The pressure on the right side of the main cylinder 81 is beginning to be compressed and dampening of main piston 13 has begun.
In FIG. 5 the pressure in subpiston chamber 91 is just beginning to overcome the source pressure in chamber 39 and about to cause air valve 15 to be accelerated back toward its closed position as in FIG. 1. Even more energy is being extracted from main piston 13 by subpiston 29. The pressure on the working surface 40 on the right side of main piston 13 continues to grow and dampen the actuator.
In FIG. 6 the pressure in subchamber 100 and subpiston chamber 91 has overpowered the source pressure in chamber 39 and air valve 15 is on its way back to its position of FIG. 1. The tang 77 has turned off the source pressure on the face 22 of air valve 15. Even more energy is now being extracted from main piston 13 by subpiston 29. The pressure on the left side 38 of main piston 13 is at the latching or intermediate pressure of source 43 and the pressure on the right side 40 of main piston 13 continues to grow and dampen the actuator. Subpiston 29 is about to clear the annular undercut or notch 75 and vent subpiston chamber 91 out the end of the actuator to atmosphere. When this happens, the function of annular chamber 91 again changes from that of reclosing air control valve 15 to that of a low pressure outlet.
In FIG. 7 the air valve 15 has returned to its closed and latched position as in FIG. 1. The pressure in annular subchamber 91 has vented to the atmosphere through port 75.
The main piston 13 in FIG. 7 has completed its travel and the piston damping pressure on the right side 40 of main piston has vented through window 61 into subpiston chamber 93 and through port 37 out to the atmosphere through the right open end of the actuator. One transition of the actuator is now complete and essentially the same process as above may be followed in the return transition.
In addition to the concept of axially venting of the low pressure outlet, several further techniques for reducing the size and increasing the compression ratio of the actuator are herein illustrated. Note that the main piston 13 has a widened rim 80 for strengthening the piston while minimizing the piston mass. This rim mates with corresponding annular ledges 82 and 84 so that the residual or minimum volume is nearly zero; hence a high compression ratio. The piston includes a conical segment 86 which improves strength at minimum mass, but more importantly, this conical segment 86 allows the axial length of the windows 59 and 61 to be short, thus of lower volume, and again improving the compression ratio of the device. The high pressure air source 39 is of much larger volume than in prior cases with thin strengthening ribs 88 consuming perhaps 20% of the annular region while the remaining annulus is entirely high pressure air and does not significantly drop in pressure when the actuator is enabled. Both the air inlet and the air outlet are relatively free of restrictions and circuitous paths thereby reducing losses associated with the air flow paths.
It will be understood from the symmetry of the valve actuator that the behavior of the air control valves 15 and 17 in utilizing main piston energy for additional valve reclosure force is, as are many of the other features, substantially the same near each of the opposite extremes of the piston travel.
Little has been said about the internal combustion engine environment in which this invention finds great utility. That environment may be much the same as disclosed in the abovementioned copending applications and the literature cited therein to which reference may be had for details of features such as electronic controls and air pressure sources. In this preferred environment, the mass of the actuating piston and its associated coupled engine valve is greatly reduced as compared to the prior devices. While the engine valve and piston move about 0.45 inches between fully open and fully closed positions, the control valves move only about 0.125 inches, therefor requiring less energy to operate. The air passageways in the present invention are generally large annular openings with little or no associated throttling losses.
From the foregoing, it is now apparent that a novel electronically controlled, pneumatically powered actuator has been disclosed meeting the objects and advantageous features set out hereinbefore as well as others, and that numerous modifications as to the precise shapes, configurations and details may be made by those having ordinary skill in the art without departing from the spirit of the invention or the scope thereof as set out by the claims which follow.